Metro set to “realign” Blue/Yellow lines, confuse riders

Photo courtesy of
‘125/365-2 Courthouse tunnel’
courtesy of ‘eschweik’

Today, Metro announced plans to “realign” service on the Blue and Yellow lines (actually on the Orange line too, but we’ll get to that) as a way to relieve some of the pressure of people transferring between the Blue and Orange lines at Rosslyn, prepare for the Dulles Metro extension, and “realign service to match changing ridership market.” The changes are planned to take effect in June 2012, meaning you have plenty of time to think through the implications for your commute.

The full report and presentation are worth a read for you Metro geeks, but for those of you who just want to know how it’s going to affect you, here’s the summary: Metro is trying to get suburban riders out of your way.

During peak times, 1/3 of Blue Line trains will be rerouted across the Yellow Line bridge, continuing on to Greenbelt, which will divert a bunch of rush hour transfers to the Orange Line from Rosslyn, where they were causing crush problems, to L’Enfant Plaza, which is a larger station that can handle the volume better. This also means that 1/3 of peak Blue Line trains will be more or less Yellow Line trains with a different origin point.

To accommodate Orange Line riders who might otherwise have transferred at Rosslyn to those rerouted Blue Line trains, Metro will add 3 trains per peak hour, but those trains will go from West Falls Church to Largo Town Center instead of to New Carrolton. So at the eastern end of the line, the additional Orange Line trains will basically be Blue Lines.

The full report has tons of stats on what this change is intended to accomplish. I think the most telling stats are that at peak times and segments, the Passenger Per Car load on the Orange Line is 106, while other lines peak PPC ranges from 89-94. At 89, the Blue Line’s peak PPC is tied with Green for lowest. Metro’s desired peak PPC is <100, and this move is expected to reduce the Orange Line’s peak PPC to 90, while only increasing the Blue Line’s to 93.

If Metro’s projections are correct (and let’s be honest, that’s a big if, but most of us are not in a position to second-guess), it seems like a pretty effective way to reduce the Orange Crush, make the Blue Line more effective, and make transferring between lines easier.

Of course, it’s also change, and change is hard, particularly since this change strikes at the heart of what I consider to be one of the most important factors in Metro’s navigability: Metro trains only have one route. Oh sure, your Metro train may not go all the way to the end of the line, but it never takes off in a completely different direction than you expect. These changes will mean you may have to pay more attention to where your train terminates during rush hour.

Personally, I think that’s a small price to pay if the expected benefits materialize. Metro’s passenger studies determined that riders frequently use the screens on the front and side of trains to gain needed navigation information already, and that they were already accustomed to paying attention to endpoints, so they believe that an Orange Line train labeled “Largo” will be sufficient on a day-to-day basis (obviously there will be a huge communications blitz leading up to these changes).

But that’s my perspective as someone who recently gave up her car and does most of her weekday travel around the city by bus. Read the report and tell us what you think in the comments.

Tiffany Baxendell Bridge is an Internet enthusiast and an incurable smartass. When not heckling the neighborhood political scene on Twitter, she can be found goofing off with her ukulele, Bollywood dancing, or obsessing about cult TV. She is That Woman With the Baby In the Bar.

Tiffany lives in Brookland with her husband Tom, son Charlie, and two high-maintenance cats. Read why Tiffany loves DC.

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7 thoughts on “Metro set to “realign” Blue/Yellow lines, confuse riders

  1. You’re misunderstanding the purpose of the realignment. It’s *not* about crowding in Rosslyn station. It’s about crowding *on* trains (particularly Orange trains) going through Rosslyn.

    Currently, each day during rush hour, 36 trains per hour cross the Potomac in each direction. 26 of those are at Rosslyn (16 Orange, 10 Blue), and that’s the absolute maximum capacity of the Blue/Orange tunnel under the Potomac. The other 10 trains cross the Potomac on the Yellow Line bridge.

    Under the plan, 3 trains per hour will be routed from Franconia to Greenbelt. That will result in *39* trains per hour crossing the Potomac during rush hour. That’s a net increase of 3 trains per hour.

    But, since the Blue/Orange Potomac tunnel is at capacity, Metro can’t add trains to it. And since Orange Line trains are the most crowded, Metro is moving some Blues out of the way to allow more Oranges.

    Anyway, after the reroute starts, the breakdown will be:
    Blue/Orange tunnel @ Rosslyn (19 OR, 7 BL = 26 total)
    Yellow bridge @ Pentagon (10 YL, 3 BL = 13 total)

    This will also result in 3 more trains per hour on the Mid-City subway and northern Green Line. That means more trains at busy stations like Columbia Heights and Prince George’s Plaza.

    In order not to reduce frequencies between Largo and Benning Road, the 3 new trains per hour from West Falls Church will run to Largo. That will mean that between Benning Road and Largo, there will continue to be 10 trains per hour (currently 10 BL. Future 7 BL, 3 OR).

    Read more about the issues here:

  2. Right now the tunnel from Rosslyn to Stadium-armory has as many trains as it can take. Some of the Orange Line trains have more people on them than the Blue line trains going the same way. Metro would like to add more Orange line trains, but can’t since the tunnel is full.

    There’s another tunnel that isn’t at capacity, from L’Enfant Plaza through the city. By shifting some of the blue line trains into this tunnel, WMATA will be able to free up some capacity for more Orange line trains. This will also help when WMATA opens new Silver line service, since those trains will have to go through the same Rosslyn/Stadium-armory tunnel.

    After this shift, the system will be at essentially maximum capacity, meaning the only way Metro will be able to get more people on peak period trains will be to upgrade the electrical systems and purchase enough railcars to run all 8-car service, which is years away.

    They also have a plan which would build additional junction connections, and allow weird routings for trains like Vienna to Branch Avenue via Arlington Cemetery.

  3. Yeah, I have to agree with Matt that the way you’ve written it up misses the whole point of the confusing color mishmash: that the Orange line is at capacity with the current number of trains. There is no way to add more Orange trains without reducing the number of Blue line trains that cross under the Potomac tunnel, which is what they’re doing. The only reason Rosslyn is relevant is because it is on one end of the tunnel.

    This paragraph is also problematic:

    To accommodate Orange Line riders who might otherwise have transferred at Rosslyn to those rerouted Blue Line trains, Metro will add 3 trains per peak hour, but those trains will go from West Falls Church to Largo Town Center instead of to New Carrolton.

    The extra Orange line trains will do nothing for the people who would have transferred at Rosslyn, because those people transfer from inbound Orange line trains to Franconia-bound Blue line trains.

    Crowding at Rosslyn is indeed an issue, but it’s not crowding in the Rosslyn station it’s crowding through the “Rosslyn portal” as is stated throughout the report.

  4. Before I update anything, is anyone ELSE from GGW planning to show up and join the party? ’cause y’all sure do know how to make a girl feel like she’s famous for all the wrong reasons. Like Lindsey Lohan or Cherita Whiting. ;)

    Seriously, I appreciate the correction but I’m sitting on a bus and can’t properly act on it just at the moment. Let’s not compound a hastily-written-over-lunchbreak mistake with a fighting-with-WP-on-a-phone mistake, yes?

  5. I hope that the blue line rerouting takes a deep hold and becomes permanent. This will create the first real direct NE to SW line (the most difficult travel path), connecting MARC w/VRE as well as both airports by connecting Springfield to Greenbelt.

    Yellow line should be swapped w/Blue anyway for just that reason.

  6. Sorry Tiffany! Looks like we all had the same idea at the same time. Didn’t mean to mow you down with comments.

    Metro really could use a dedicated staff person whose job it is to remove jargon, eh?

    Keep up the good work!

  7. They really should have just followed the original system design and had the Yellow Line run to Franconia-Springfield to begin with.